The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s most prestigious car race, and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is one of the very few Americans to have won the race. Our film opens with Shelby’s realization that his racing days, much to his chagrin, are behind him. And so, he has turned instead to designing his own brand of sports cars, the Shelby Cobra. His experience in racing at Le Mans and his success as a car designer bring the Ford Motor Company knocking when they decide to start their own racing division to stick it to Ferrari (no small task).
Shelby accepts the job of designing the GT40, but knows he can’t do it properly without having his top engineer, driver, and friend, Ken Miles (Christian Bale), by his side. It is here that the film truly begins to take off, and while one might think that it will be entirely about racing cars, there is much more going on.
Shelby has to navigate Ford corporate politics just to keep himself on the job, and these politics are made more complicated by Miles’ brash personality. Due to this, the first half of the film acts as a drama where we get to know the characters, their traits, their flaws, and how it all interacts. In fact, this is why the film works so brilliantly, for sports films (and racing is included in this category) can often struggle to generate high-tension stakes in the early parts of the film.
Ford v Ferrari has no such struggle, and the chemistry between Damon and Bale truly helps to drive their relationship and their fight against the politics of the Ford Motor Company in a believable manner.
As the film transitions to its race-filled second half, director James Mangold (Logan) expertly immerses the audience in the skill of racing and the moving parts that go into tuning a car for a race. When this directorial expertise is combined with the character acting of Damon and Bale at their best, the result is an incredibly fun, if foul-mouthed, film that will fill your heart with joy and excitement.
Unfortunately, due to the heavy language, this film is Not Dove-approved.
While there is heavy cursing throughout the film, both men act as shining examples of integrity and friendship in a film that will have you cheering in your seat.